Search resumes for Captain Cook’s Endeavour in Newport Harbor

The search is on for the Endeavour in Newport Harbor. (Photo of HM Bark Endeavour Replica at the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia)

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM), and the Silentworld Foundation (SWF) announced this week that they have again partnered to continue the study of a Newport (RI) Harbor shipwreck that may be HMB Endeavour. 

With the 250th Anniversary of Cook’s voyage to Australia approaching in spring 2020, there’s interest from around the world to solidify if and/or where the ship sits at the bottom of Newport Harbor as soon as possible.

Following Capt. James Cook’s first circumnavigation in the Endeavour, the Royal Navy sold the ship to a private owner, who renamed her the Lord Sandwich and sent her to carry British and Hessian troops to serve in the American Revolution.

Endeavour

This vessel was reportedly among a fleet of 13 vessels scuttled in Newport Harbor during the days leading up to the Battle of Rhode Island. 

While the search has been ongoing since 1999, the combined research team identified one of these shipwrecks as the most likely to be that iconic vessel in 2018. “To find evidence to identify this particular site, the team will reportedly expose selected parts of the ship’s structure, analyze and treat retrieved artifacts at the new conservation lab at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, and identify timber and ballast samples,” RIMAP states in a press release.

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“The hope is that these results will be consistent with the known history of the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour, a vessel that was built along the Yorkshire coast of England, that sailed around the world, that carried troops to Newport, that was used as a prison ship in Newport harbor, and then was scuttled there in 1778,” RIMAP writes in a press release.

The 2019 study began on August 22 and will continue through September 11. The fieldwork is not open to the media, but progress reports and limited access will be granted on Tuesday August 27 and on Tuesday September 3.

RIMAP says a summary of the season’s research results will be announced at a public event on Sunday September 8, details of that time and place to be arranged. An hour-long documentary about the 2019 research, sponsored by a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, will also be issued by the end of the year.

Status with Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission

Following a meeting back in May where members of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) voted to approve consultation with the R.I. Attorney General’s Office to update or otherwise modify or terminate the 1999 memorandum agreement between RIHPHC and the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) regarding the search for HMS Endeavour, RIHPHC notificed RIMAP with notice of termination of the 1999 Memorandum of Agreement, effective on approximately June 7th.

“They applied for a permit to perform work.  A conditional permit was issued. They satisfied the conditions of the permit as required prior to the onset of any field work,” J. Paul Loether, executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, told What’sUpNewp on Friday.

“As we noted in our original Memorandum of Agreement termination letter to RIMAP, what was terminated was RIMAP’s exclusive right (per the Memorandum) to conduct archeological fieldwork related to the British Transport fleet site off of Newport.” Loether said.  “As our initial letter also noted, termination of the Memorandum of Agreement does not preclude RIMAP’s ability to request a permits for archaeological fieldwork on a project-by-project basis”.

“They are essentially different issues,” he concluded.

Support for this year’s fieldwork and the new lab has come from RIMAP members and donors, grants from the ANMM, and SWF private sponsors. To know more about these organizations, visit: rimap.orgsea.museum, and silentworldfoundation.org.au.


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